Engage Transformative Possibility

Practice of the Week
Engage Transformative Possibility

Trapeze artists must let go of the bar to which they are holding, allow themselves to enter the space of holding to nothing while flying toward the new bar. Is there a new bar swinging your way? What is it? What will you have to let go of in order to fly to the new bar?

Is life calling you to let go and leap into something entirely new?

This week's exercise is reflection and discernment on that question.


Set aside reflective time. Use the six-minute video below as a meditation. Don’t rush it. Watch it three days in a row or multiple times over two weeks. Linger with the questions it asks: What new trapeze bar has your name on it? What is your next new story? What is the new aliveness coming to get you? Are you ready to jump? Are you ready to honor and savor the transition zone? And see it as the space of real living?

For Journaling

Write your thoughts about possible answers to these questions.

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Previous Practice of the Week: "Let Go"
For list of all weekly practices: "Practices of the Week Index"


Let Go

Practice of the Week
Let Go
“When you stop trying to grasp, own, and control the world around you, you give it the freedom to fulfill you without the power to destroy you. That’s why letting go is so important: letting go is letting happiness in.” (Leo Babauta)
Category: SLOGANS TO LIVE BY: Carry these reminders at all times. These practices don't require setting aside a separate substantial chunk of time -- but they will slow you down a bit (and that's a good thing.) Resolve to get stronger at living by these maxims, day by day. Sometimes make one of them the focus of your daily journaling.

I've done a lot of rock climbing, so I know firsthand the importance sometimes of not letting go! This applies to other things as well: keeping hold of a child's hand while crossing the street, staying true to your ethics in a tricky situation, or sustaining attention to your breath while meditating.

On the other hand, think of all the stuff—both physical and nonphysical—we cling to that creates problems for us and others: clutter in the home, "shoulds," rigid opinions, resentments, regrets, status, guilt, resistance to the facts on the ground, needing to be one-up with others, the past, people who are gone, bad habits, hopeless guests, unrewarding relationships, and so on.

Letting go can mean several things: releasing pain; dropping thoughts, words, and deeds that cause suffering and harm; yielding rather than breaking; surrendering to the way it is, like it or not; allowing each moment to pass away without trying to hold on to it; accepting the permanently impermanent nature of existence; and relaxing the sense of self and opening out into the wider world.

Living in this way is relaxing, decreases hassles and conflicts, reduces stress, improves mood and well-being, and grounds you in reality as it is. And it's a key element, if you like, of spiritual practice. To quote Ajahn Chah, a major Buddhist teacher who lived in Thailand:
If you let go a little, you will have a little happiness.
If you let go a lot, you will have a lot of happiness.
If you let go completely, you will be completely happy.

Appreciate the wisdom of letting go, and notice any resistance to it: perhaps it seems weak to you, foolish, or against the culture of your gender or personal background. For example, 1 remember talking with my friend John years ago about a woman he'd been pursuing who'd made it clear she wasn't interested, and he felt frustrated and hurt. I said maybe he should surrender and move on—to which John replied fiercely, "I don't do surrender." It took him a while to get past his belief that surrender—acceptance, letting go—meant you were wimping out. (All ended happily with us getting drunk together and him throwing up on my shoe—which I then had to surrender to!) It takes strength to let go, and fortitude, character, and insight. When you let go, you're like a supple and resilient willow tree that bends before the storm, still here in the morning—rather than a stiff oak that ends up broken and toppled over.

Be aware of the letting go that happens naturally all day long such as, releasing objects from your hands, hanging up the phone, pushing send on an e-mail, moving from one thought or feeling to another in your mind, saying bye to a friend, shifting plans, using the bathroom, changing a TV channel, or emptying the trash. Notice that letting go is all right, that you keep on going, that it's necessary and beneficial. Become more comfortable with letting go.

Consciously let go of tension in your body. Exhale long and slowly, activating the relaxing parasympathetic nervous system. Let go of holding in your belly, shoulders, jaws, and eyes.

Clear out possessions you don't use or need. Let in how great it feels to finally have some room in your closet, drawers, or garage.

Pick a dumb idea you've held on to way too long—one for me would be that I have to do things perfectly or there'll be a disaster. Practice dropping this idea and replacing it with better ones (like for me: "Nobody is perfect and that's okay").

Pick a grievance, grudge, or resentment—and resolve to move on. This does not necessarily mean letting other people off the moral hook, just that you are letting yourself off the hot plate of staying upset about whatever happened. If feelings such as hurt still come up about the issue, be aware of them, be kind to yourself about them, and then gently encourage them out the door.

Letting go of painful emotions is a big subject, with lots of resources for you in books such as Focusing, by Eugene Gendlin, or What We May Be, by Piero Ferrucci. Here's a summary of methods I like:
  • relax your body;
  • imagine that the feelings are flowing out of you like water;
  • vent in a letter you'll never send, or out loud someplace appropriate;
  • get things off your chest with a good friend;
  • take in positive feelings to soothe and gradually replace the painful ones.
In general, let things be pleasant without grasping after them; let things be unpleasant without resisting them; let things be neutral without prodding them to get pleasant. Letting go undoes the craving and clinging that lead to suffering and harm.

Let go of who you used to be. Let yourself learn, grow, and therefore change.

Let go of each moment as it disappears beneath your feet. It's gone as soon as you're aware of it, like a snowflake melting as soon as you see its shape. You can afford to abide as letting go because of the miracle that the next moment continually emerges as the previous one vanishes, all within the infinitely tiny duration of Now.

For Journaling

Describe some of the things that you let go of today.

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CUUC Music: Sun Nov 29

This Sunday morning’s musical selections continue in the Thanksgiving vein with selections by such American composers as Edward MacDowell, Samuel Barber, and William Bolcom. The Prelude opens with Unitarian composer Edvard Grieg’s Lyric Piece entitled Thanks. Read on for programming details.
Prelude: Adam Kent, piano
Thanks, Op. 62, No. 2           
                                                Edvard Grieg
In Autumn and Told at Sunset from Woodland Sketches, Op. 51
                                                Edward MacDowell

Opening Music:
In slow blues tempo from Excursions, Op. 20
                                                Samuel Barber

Graceful Ghost Rag
                                                William Bolcom

A.D. 1620 from Sea Pieces, Op. 55


Be Grateful

Practice of the Week
Be Grateful
"Gratitude is the healthiest of all human emotions. The more you express gratitude for what you have, the more likely you will have even more to express gratitude for." (Zig Ziglar)

"'Thank you' is the best prayer that anyone could say. I say that one a lot. Thank you expresses extreme gratitude, humility, understanding." (Alice Walker)

We experience gratitude when we are freely given something good. Therefore, looking for opportunities for gratitude -- developing an "attitude of gratitude" -- is a great way to notice and enjoy some of the gifts you've received.

Gratitude does not mean ignoring difficulties, losses, or injustice. It just means also paying attention to the offerings that have come your way. Especially the little ones of everyday life.

When you do this, you're resting your mind increasingly on good things moving toward you, on being supported, on feelings of fullness -- on the sense of having an open heart that moves toward an open hand.

Fuller and fuller, more and more fed by life instead of drained by it, you naturally feel like you have more of value inside yourself and more to offer to others.

And that is a very good thing. For example, studies by Robert Emmons and others have shown that gratitude is associated with greater well-being, better coping, and even better sleep (McCullough et al. 2001).


Prime your pump by bringing to mind someone you naturally feel grateful toward. Perhaps a friend, parent or grandparent, teacher, spiritual being, or pet.

Next, look around and notice, both here and now, and in the past:
  • The gifts of the physical world, including the stars in the sky, the colors of the rainbow, and the remarkable fact that the seemingly arbitrary constants that determine how atoms stick together in our universe are just right for planets to form and life to develop -- enabling you to be here today
  • The gifts of nature, like the flight of a bird, the creatures that die so we may live, and your amazing brain
  • The gifts of life, including the marvelous instructions for building a human being woven into the strands of DNA
  • The gifts of nurturance, helpfulness, good counsel, and love from other people
These gifts are freely offered; no one can possibly earn them. All we can do is be grateful for these gifts, and do what we can in our own little corner of the world to use them well each day.

Let yourself accept these gifts. It would be rude -- ungrateful! -- to refuse them.

Remember that gratitude is not guilt or indebtedness -- both of which actually make it harder to feel grateful. You may feel moved to be generous in turn -- including in new directions, such as giving to some out of appreciation for what you have been given by others -- but it will come from large-heartedness, not because you think you owe something. Gratitude moves us away from let's-make-a-deal exchanges in relationships toward a sense of abundance, in which you feel fed beyond measure and in turn give with all your heart without keeping score.

Then recognize the benefits to you of what has been given. Reflect on how it helps you and those you care about, makes you feel good, and fuels your own generosity in turn.

And recognize the benevolence of the giver, whether it is a person, Mother Nature, or the physical universe -- or, if this is meaningful to you, something Divine. Don't minimize the benevolence to avoid feeling unworthy or indebted; open up to it as a telling of the truth, as a giving back to the giver, and as a joyful leaning toward that which is truly gift-giving in your world.

Last, soak up the gifts coming to you, whatever they are. Let them become part of you, woven into your body, brain, and being. As you inhale, as you relax, as you open, take in the good that you've been given.

* * *
Brother David Stendl-Rast's TED Talk. He says:
"It's not being happy that makes us grateful. It's being grateful that makes us happy."

See also, Arthur C. Brooks: "Choose to Be Grateful. It Will Make You Happier."
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For Journaling

Every day for seven days (or forever), start off your daily journaling by listing five things in the previous 24 hours for which you are grateful.

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CUUC Music: Sun Nov 22

Join us for a special Thanksgiving celebration at CUUC. Choir Director Lisa Meyer performs Aaron Copland’s moving version of the “At the River” and directs the CUUC Choir in selections connected with the celebratory nature of the season. The morning’s Prelude is provided by Georgianna Pappas, who offers Mozart’s delightful variations on a favorite children’s tune. Read on for programming details.
Prelude: Georgianna Pappas, piano
Variations on “Ah, vous dirai-je maman”, K. 265
                                                Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Anthem: CUUC Choir directed by Lisa N. Meyer and accompanied by Georgianna Pappas
For the Beauty of the Earth   
John Rutter

At the River
                                                Traditional American, arr. by Aaron Copland
South African Folk Song, arr. by Victor C. Johnson 

Translation: We are pilgrims on this earth, but our home is in heaven. We say Hallelujah!


CUUC Bird Walk Report: Sun Nov 15

Today's theme was gratitude, and so we began our walk with this reading:

When we feed the birds, they teach us their language in gratitude. Then we come to understand them, and when we do, they feed us.

There was much to be grateful for today, including our highest ever count of total individuals for our walk - 413 birds!  This was mostly due to the icterids flying over (blackbirds, orioles, and grackles).  We also saw 15 different species, and not one of these was at the solitary bird feeder at the parsonage. This shows us that just by slowing down, and then looking around and looking up there is life ever before us.

We also saw high flying gulls passing over throughout the walk, as well as the icterids. The robins continue to enjoy the many berry and crab apple trees on the grounds, though we will probably see ever less of them as winter approaches.  It was nice to see the area resident red-tailed hawk. They are frequent visitors to CUUC, and surely one day we will discover where they nest.

Our next bird walk on the grounds is December 20th, Sunday,  at 8:30 a.m. beginning at the Parsonage. There will also be a Bird Retreat on Saturday, November 22, from 9:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m., and then a bird walk at Tarrytown lakes Sunday,  November 23, from 8:00 a.m. - 9:30 a.m.  Please let me know that you are coming by emailing me at amoloros@gmail.com  so I know whether to cancel the event or not.  For more information, or to report bird sightings on the grounds, please do contact me.
In hope for all life,
Rev. LoraKim Joyner

Here's the species list for the day: - 413 individuals of 15  avian species, 2 rodent species, and one ape species.

6 Herring gulls
1 Red-tailed hawk
1 Turkey vulture
5 Mourning doves
1 Red-bellied woodpeckers
1 Pileated woodpecker
12 American robins
3 Cardinals
2 Black-capped chickadee
3 Blue jays
2 American crows
3 White-throated sparrows
1 Dark-eyed juncos
202 Common grackles
170 blackbird species

8 Gray squirrels
2 Eastern chipmunks
2 White-tailed deer

3 Humans


Spiritual Reading

Practice of the Week
Spiritual Reading

For a somewhat different approach, see "Sacred Reading"

Sacred reading is a very different way of reading than you are probably used to. It's a very slow approach to about one or two paragraphs a day -- reading not so much for what the text means, in the usual way, as for what it suggests for your life, right where you are, at that particular moment.

Begin by choosing a text for the day. The Bible's book of Psalms, the verses of the Dao De Jing or the Bhagavad Gita are wonderful. You might want to utilize the poems of Mary Oliver, or Walt Whitman, or the poems from such anthologies as The Soul is Here for Its Own Joy (Bly) or A Book of Luminous Things (Milosz) -- or just google "spiritual poetry anthology" for titles. You might want to use the prose essays of a favorite wisdom writer -- progressing through the essay one or two paragraphs at a time.

These instructions are adapted from those at onespiritinterfaith.org.

1. Enter into Sacred Time
Take a few minutes to quiet and center yourself. You may want to mark the beginning of your practice as sacred time by lighting a candle, ringing a meditation chime, taking a few deep mindful breaths, or offering a simple gesture of reverence such as placing your hand gently on your heart and bowing your head. Take a moment to recognize that this time of practice is not only for your own benefit, but also for the benefit of those whose lives you touch, directly or indirectly – even for the benefit, in some way you may never know, of the whole of life itself.

2. Read
Read the day’s passage slowly and receptively several times, silently or, if possible, aloud.

3. Reflect
Notice which word or phrase captures your attention. Take some time to reflect on the meaning that word or phrase has for you at this particular time, what it evokes in you, what questions or challenges or insights it raises for your life right now. You may want to jot the word or phrase down in a journal or on a card to carry with you as a reminder through your day.

4. Respond
Once you have reflected deeply on what Spirit, or life, or your intuition is saying to you today through this word or phrase, allow yourself to respond. This may be as simple as an inner “thank you” or an intention to express the wisdom you have gleaned in your life today. Or you may feel a need to pour out feelings that have been stirred in your time of reflection. Do not censor yourself but, like the psalmists of old, let yourself express whatever has arisen in you – whether gratitude, wonder, hope, joy, or anger, grief, shame or fear. Express your response however you are moved to: speak it, write it, pray it, dance it, draw it, sing it. Ask yourself (Spirit/life/the universe), for further illumination or guidance, for strength or courage to translate what you have discovered into action in your life. Open yourself to feeling fully listened to and heard by yourself/Spirit/life/the universe.

5. Rest and Receive
Now allow yourself to enter a time of stillness and silence – a time of letting go, of releasing agendas and control, and of simply resting in and with Spirit. Don’t look for any particular kind of experience during this time; simply surrender and offer yourself to life, trusting that whatever transformation and healing you need is being done in and for and through you as you rest and allow. Try to spend at least 5 minutes in this receptive silence, more if possible.

6. Return and Re-enter
Gently return your awareness to your physical surroundings and prepare to re-enter your daily life in the world. Spend a moment in gratitude for whatever you have received in this time of practice, and for the blessings in your life. You may want to end your time of practice with this affirmation and breath-prayer, based on words of Dag Hammarkjöld.
“For all that has been – thanks! For all that will be – yes!”
Breathing in: “Thanks”
Breathing out: “Yes”

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CUUC Music: Sun Nov 15

Music and words predominate this Sunday at CUUC. Soprano Kim Force sings two haunting settings of Emily Dickinson’s poetry by Aaron Copland. Music Director Adam Kent also plays several of Felix Mendelssohn’s Songs without Words, pieces which seem to ask whether music itself can convey meaning even without language. Consider attending the service this Sunday for more of Adam’s thoughts on music, language, harmony, and humanity, when he delivers the sermon. Read on for programming details.

Prelude: Adam Kent, piano
Songs without Words
Op. 67, No. 5 in b minor
Op. 53, No. 2 in Eb Major
Op. 19, No. 1 in E Major
Felix Mendelssohn

Opening Music: Kim Force, soprano
“Heart, We Will Forget Him”
Aaron Copland (Poetry by Emily Dickinson)

Songs without Words
Op. 102, No. 3 in C Major
Op. 67, No. 3 in Bb Major

“Because I Would Not Stop For Death”


Find Beauty

Practice of the Week
Find Beauty
"A thing of beauty is a joy forever: its loveliness increases; it will never pass into nothingness." (John Keats)

Beauty is that which delights the senses -- including the "sixth sense" of the mind.

Different people find beauty in different forms and places. You don't have to go to a museum, listen to a symphony, or eat a gourmet meal to be in the presence of beauty.

For example, here are some of the (maybe strange) things I find beautiful: A clump of grass in a sidewalk crack. The horn of a train as it moves away. The smell of cinnamon. The curve of highway cloverleafs. Kitchen knives. The faces of nurses. Courage. Falling water. A glazed donut. The touch of cashmere. Foam. Frisbees. Snakes. Geometrical proofs. Worn pennies. The feeling of catching a football.

What are some things that are beautiful to you?

There's so much beauty all around us. But I think that for many people, there is little sense of this. That was certainly true for me before I started deliberately looking for beauty. And then we wonder why life doesn't seem very delightful!

What do you feel when you encounter beauty, including in its everyday forms? Perhaps your heart opens, something eases in the mind, there's pleasure, and your spirits lift. The experience of beauty relieves stress, nourishes hope, and reminds us that there's much more to life than grinding through tasks. The sense of beauty can also be shared -- have you ever admired a sunset with a friend? -- bringing you closer to others.


Take a few moments each day to open to beauty. Really look at the things around you -- particularly at the ordinary things we tend to tune out, such as the sky, appliances, grass, cars, weeds, familiar views, bookshelves, or sidewalks. Try the same with everyday sounds, smells, tastes, and touches. Also seek out lovely memories, feelings, or ideas.

Hunt for beauty like a child looking for seashells on a bountiful beach. Be open to things outside the frame of "nice" or "pretty." Let yourself be surprised. Find beauty in unexpected places.

When you find beauty, feel it. Open to a growing sense of boundless beauty above and below and stretching in all directions, like you're floating in a sea of rose petals. Recognize the beauty in others, in their character, choices, sacrifices, aspirations. Understand the beauty in noble failures, quiet determination, leaps of insight, and joy at the good fortune of others. Hear the beauty of a parents voice soothing a child, of friends laughing, of the click and clack of a teacher's chalk on the blackboard. See the beauty in the face of someone at the very beginning of this life, and see it in the face of someone at the very end.

Recognize the beauty in your own heart. Don't duck this one: as others are beautiful, so are you

Make beauty with your hands, your words, and your actions.

Even the breath is beautiful. Breathing in beauty, let beauty breathe you.

For Journaling

Every day for a week, describe what you encountered that was beautiful that day.

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CUUC music: Sun Nov 8

Franz Schubert’s music complements November’s theme of Hospitality by virtue of the performance environment for which it was conceived. Schubert’s piano works were not destined for the public stage, but for intimate gatherings of the composer’s artistic friends known as Schubertiades. The Six “Moments Musicaux” and the two collections of Impromptus all date from Schubert’s final year. Read on for programming details.
Prelude: Adam Kent, piano
Impromptu in c minor, Op. 90, No. 1
                                                Franz Schubert

Opening Music:
Moment Musical in f minor, Op. 94, No. 3
Moment Musical in Ab Major, Op. 94, No. 2

Moment Musical in C Major, Op. 94, No. 1


CUUC Bird Walk Report: Sun Nov 1

Bird Report November 1, 2015

Today is All Saints Day, and to accompany the theme of the service this morning, we highlighted death.   The opening reading was:
All the birds of the air
fell a-sighing and a-sobbing,
when they heaed the bell toll
for poor Cock Robin

This comes from the nursery rhyme, "Who Killed cock Robin." One meaning of this poem identifies that "Cock Robin" is a metaphor for spring, and that extended winter weather is upon us.  That certainly is not the case this fall, although last Sunday when I came out of the Sanctuary it was snowing!  Today though was mild with raining orange and red marvels carpeting our walk around the CUUC grounds.

Though we pondered death today, based on the numbers and kinds of birds we saw, the better question was, "Who invited Cock Robin?"  There were at least 68 of them, and probably more but we didn't want to double count any individuals.  The ground were thick with them as they were enjoying the cherries, crab apples, and hack berries that they can find here. 

Another important question that is for all of us here at CUUC, "Who is killing the birds we find dead around the building?" The answer is, our building is.  Over the last two years I have found several dead birds that have died upon impact on our windows and just in the last month, 2 injured birds were seen - one hit the front window by the door, and another the sanctuary window near the piano. We are not alone in having wonderful windows with a view, for scientists estimate that up to 1 billion birds die a year hitting windows in the USA.

Several concerned individuals, including the 4th/5th and 6th/7th grade Religious Education classes, desire to reduce the harm caused to birds on our grounds.  Several of us met with the Building and Grounds Committee today to discuss the "bird plan," which will probably involve testing various kinds of visual barriers on our windows. You may have noticed some very experimental films placed on some of the sanctuary windows as we test what might work best for our community.  These films have also been placed on all the lower Parsonage windows, as birds have been hitting there rather frequently.  Stay tuned for further developments, and if you have any ideas or suggestions, do not hesitate to contact me.

Our next bird walk on the grounds is November 15th, Sunday, at 8:30 a.m. beginning at the Parsonage. There will also be a Bird Retreat on Saturday, November 22, from 9:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m., and then a bird walk at Tarrytown lakes Sunday,  November 23, from 8:00 a.m. - 9:30 a.m.

For more information, or to report bird sightings on the grounds, please do contact me:

In hope for all life,

Rev. LoraKim Joyner

Here's the species list for the day, including a new one for the property - a Northern Harrier. In total we had 104 individuals of 11 avian species, 3 rodent species, and one ape species.

1 Mourning dove
68 American robins
15 Cedar waxwings
4 Black-capped chickadee
1 White-breasted nuthatch
3 Blue jays
2 crows
1 Northern harrier
2 Red-bellied woodpeckers
2 Downy woodpeckers
5 White-throated sparrows
2 Gray squirrels
1 Chipmunks
2 Red squirrels

2 humans